Managing stress well can transform your life and help you find meaning, happiness, and joy. It can also improve your energy levels and even strengthen your immune system. Learn more about what stress is, its main causes, and how it can affect your body.
The holiday season can be a time of happiness and joy. It is also the darkest and coldest time of the year. When you combine this with a stressful job, financial worries, and relationship issues, it can feel like it’s too much. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can stack on top of these other issues and make things feel hopeless.
You can make the holiday season brighter and have more fun by taking proactive steps to overcome stress. When you define stress management, it is easier to come up with a plan. Join me today as I explore five powerful interventions that transform stressful situations into empowering experiences.
- Identify Your Main Causes of Stress
- Physical Effects of Stress
- Physical Methods for Relieving Stress
- Psychological Hacks to Relieve Stress
- Transforming the Effects of Stress
Identify Your Main Causes of Stress
Have you ever wondered what stress is, or what its main causes are? You can break stress down into different categories like physical, psychological, psychosocial, and psychospiritual. Every life is different, so what affects you most may be different than those around you. The same source of stress can manifest differently for different people. A problem that gives you physical stress could manifest in someone else as moral or spiritual stress.
For many people, money is the biggest source of stress. Poverty and job insecurity make money matters feel overwhelming. People in the middle class, and even the upper-middle class, often feel squeezed by financial pressures as well.
Another major cause of stress is work. Most people have jobs that are not ideal for them, and there are situations in the workplace that can make things worse. Difficult coworkers, managers, and customers can make it hard to focus on your primary job functions. The resources available to you are often not optimized for the tasks at hand, and you may have to deal with a heavier workload than is reasonable.
Relationships round out the top three sources of stress. Even when you have a great partner, time pressures, sickness, and schedules that do not align can increase your stress load.
When you understand what stress is caused by, you will be able to prepare yourself better. With a little foresight and planning, you can unlock easy stress reduction techniques that can make a big difference.
Physical Effects of Stress
There are many symptoms of stress, and a lot of them manifest physically. Sleeplessness, loss of appetite, anxiety, lack of focus, and chronic fatigue can all be signs that you’re under too much stress.
The best time to manage stress is before it gets on top of you. Even if you already have a lot on your plate, there are things you can do to lighten the load and give you more positive energy. When you get on top of the things causing you stress, you can fine-tune your interventions and try to get the most out of every day. Revisiting these strategies and incorporating them into your life can help you stay ahead of the game and keep the negative effects of stress to a minimum.
If you’re not experiencing physical stress symptoms, look at your psychological, social, and spiritual life. Is anything happening in these areas that may be stress related?
Physical Methods for Relieving Stress
My first tip for stress management is sleep. Getting enough high quality sleep will help you heal the symptoms of physical stress, and it will also help with other forms of stress.
I suggest planning your sleep strategies in advance. Optimize your bedroom or sleep environment to be as dark, cool, and distraction-free as you can make it. Plan out a bedtime routine that starts an hour before bedtime. Even if you’re short on time, a five- or ten-minute bedtime routine can make a big difference. If your sleep quality doesn’t improve within a few weeks, consider discussing sleep with your doctor or a healthcare professional.
My second tip for stress management is to optimize your diet and exercise. This will have a huge effect on the physical signs of stress. In computer science, there is a term: Garbage in, garbage out. The same is true for your body. The more you improve what you put in your body, the better your output will be. Proper diet and exercise can heal the body and the mind. It may even help you learn to thrive in stressful situations.
I have a secret superfood to help you out: water. Most people don’t drink enough water, so you should drink more water, especially right before and after a workout. Water boosts your metabolism and hydrates your skin, muscles, and organs. I recommend you start every day with a tall glass of water and top yourself off every few hours. My only caution comes around evenings. Avoid drinking water or alcohol close to bedtime, as both of these liquids will disrupt the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Psychological Hacks to Relieve Stress
My third tip may sound deceptively simple, and it will help you most with psychological stressors. Get a blast of sunlight every day, preferably first thing in the morning. Sunlight doesn’t just synthesize Vitamin D. When you get a happy blast of light first thing in the morning, it helps you wake up, elevates your mood, and gets your metabolism going. If it’s still dark when you get up, consider getting a sun lamp or finding another solution. Light in the morning can make a big difference in your response to stress.
My fourth tip is simple and powerful. Music can have a dramatic impact on your mood and resilience to psychological and psychosocial stress. Prepare a daily playlist that will help foster a positive attitude. Strategically playing soothing music at the right times during the day can help you build resilience to anxiety and stress.
I’ve saved the best for last. My fifth stress management tip is the most powerful. Take the time to explore your purpose in life. This will predominantly help you manage psychospiritual stress and it will have effects on your social, psychological, and physical symptoms.
“He who has a reason why can endure almost any how.” -Victor Frankl.
The more meaningful you can make your life, the easier it is to carry a heavy load. When you see the long term purpose and reason for your work, it can help you feel more motivated and happy, even when you’re going through troubled times. The pursuit of meaning can transform stress into eustress. I recommend setting five minutes aside before bed to chronicle your day and help you focus on the purpose and meaning of life.
Transforming the Effects of Stress
Friends and family can help with stress. Many people fall into the trap of thinking that psychological stress isn’t as important as other forms. Your mental health is part of the foundation of a healthy life. You should take it seriously and be compassionate with yourself. Reaching out to those closest to you can help you manage your stress better, and it can also help you build better relationships.
Explore some mental health apps and see if they can help you better manage your stressors by maintaining calm, meditating, expressing gratitude, and even partaking in cognitive behavioral therapy. Find one that suits you, and see how much it can help you fight the main causes of stress.
I recommend you pick one of these tips for stress reduction and try it for thirty days. Commit to making small changes in your life that, over time, can make significant differences. I believe everyone can benefit from better stress management strategies, and many of them are easier than you might think.